For the first time, the veil of privacy surrounding First Lady Melania Trump is being swept away by someone from her inner circle.
Mrs. Trump’s friend and former adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is about to release her highly-anticipated memoir, Melania & Me. In an exclusive excerpt featured in New York magazine’s Intelligencer, Winston Wolkoff gives shocking details about the oft-reported rivalry between the first lady and her stepdaughter, Ivanka Trump.
Winston Wolkoff describes her “petty” attempt with Mrs. Trump to keep Ivanka (whom Mrs. Trump nicknamed “Princess”) out of the best photo ops during Inauguration Day in 2016. They called their efforts “Operation Block Ivanka,” writes Winston Wolkoff, a former producer of the Met Gala who was brought on to help organize the inaugural events. New York also described Winston Wolfkoff as thinking she was the first lady’s “best friend.”
In her book, she writes of the first daughter’s blatant attempts to overtake the East Wing, according to the excerpt.
A source from the Trump transition team disputes Winston Wolkoff’s account that Ivanka wanted to take over the East Wing, telling PEOPLE: “I was there during all of this stuff and there was absolutely no desire for her to take the East Wing … She wanted to focus on policy in the West Wing. She didn’t want to focus on the social aspects.”
“They firmly deny the East Wing office [conflict] was a thing,” the source says, adding, Ivanka “wanted to focus on policy.”
A White House spokeswoman for the first lady did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
“It was Donald’s inauguration, not Ivanka’s,” writes Winston Wolkoff, according to the magazine. “But no one was brave enough to tell her that. Melania was not thrilled about Ivanka’s steering the schedule and would not allow it. Neither was she happy to hear that Ivanka insisted on walking in the Pennsylvania Avenue parade with her children.”
Ivanka texted Winston Wolkoff an image of former President Barack Obama on his swearing-in day, surrounded by family, and wrote, “It is nice to have family with him for this special moment.” That’s when Winston Wolkoff and Mrs. Trump launched “Operation Block Ivanka,” Winston Wolkoff writes. They went so far as to rearrange the family’s standing positions during the ceremony, so stepdaughter and stepmother weren’t next to each other, per the excerpt.
“Yes, Operation Block Ivanka was petty,” Winston Wolkoff writes, according to Intelligencer. “Melania was in on this mission. But in our minds, Ivanka shouldn’t have made herself the center of attention in her father’s inauguration.”
Ivanka’s other attempts to steal the spotlight were either ignored or thwarted, the former socialite explains.
As a source in both New York and Florida circles, where the Trumps travel, previously told PEOPLE: It’s “no secret” that the first lady “isn’t pals with the three older Trump kids.”
The White House has previously denied that Mrs. Trump and her stepdaughter have friction. In 2017, Vanity Fair reported that Ivanka had taken over an office in the West Wing and rubbed elbows with world leaders — some of the same duties usually performed by the first lady. The magazine also reported that two sources noticed that there was an icy relationship between the two, which the White House adamantly denied. “Ivanka and Mrs. Trump have always shared a close relationship, and that continues today,” the first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told Vanity Fair.
Mrs. Trump’s former adviser doesn’t remember it that way.
A friend of Mrs. Trump’s from her days in New York, Winston Wolkoff became mired in negative headlines starting in 2018, with reports she made too much money from helping organize the inaugural events.
President Trump’s inaugural committee raised a historic $107 million — of which a firm Winston Wolkoff incorporated, WIS Media Partners, received approximately $26 million.
The White House subsequently claimed that Winston Wolkoff, who served as a confidante and adviser to Mrs. Trump in the East Wing, was ousted, according to The New York Times.
But she denied being fired.